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The two companies operating Melbourne’s train and tram services pocketed $16 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses for exceeding their performance targets during the pandemic – despite there being almost no passengers.
Between April and December last year, when commuters had largely deserted the train and tram networks, Metro Trains and Yarra Trams received the money on top of the payments the two overseas-owned firms receive to operate the network.
A train last April during what would normally have been the morning peak.CREDIT:LUIS ASCUI
The bonuses also came on top of special COVID-relief payments the operators were granted by the Andrews government.
Metro pocketed $12 million in bonuses — more than 80 per cent of all the incentives it earned since the start of 2019, an internal Transport Department breakdown reveals.
The state government paid the operator, based in Hong Kong, $4 million quarterly bonuses in three quarters during the pandemic. It is double the $2 million it earned in bonuses for good performance over a 16-month period starting in January 2019.
Yarra Trams received more than $4 million during the period when COVID-19 was causing many commuters to abandon the network. This compared with $821,000 in bonus payments it had earned since the start of 2019.
An empty tram travels through the CBD in October.CREDIT:EDDIE JIM
A 91 per cent drop in patronage and 70 per cent slide in road traffic during the extended lockdown last year meant trains and trams ran more smoothly than they had in recent decades.
For the first time since signing lucrative contracts with the government in 2017, Metro and Yarra Trams consistently met or exceeded their monthly punctuality and reliability targets, while commuters faced protracted lockdowns in Melbourne.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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